Workers’ compensation benefits can serve as a financial lifeline when you’re injured and no longer able to work. But these benefits aren’t guaranteed, and even after you’re awarded benefits, your employer and its insurance company are going to look for a way to reduce or eliminate them over time.
One way they do this is by forcing you to be subjected to an independent medical examination, which is allowable under Pennsylvania law as long as they are reasonable. There’s no concrete time when these examinations can occur, either, which means your employer and their insurance company might pick a time that’s inconvenient for you.
What happens at the independent medical examination?
Typically, the doctor or a nurse will start by taking your medical history. Remember, this medical professional has probably never met you before, so they don’t know anything about you. Once they have that information, they’ll conduct an examination, focusing on your injuries and how they impact you. They might ask you follow-up questions about your injuries and how they’re impacting your ability to function on a daily basis.
Although the medical professional who conducts your independent medical evaluation might seem nice enough, it’s important to remember that they’re not there to look out for you. In fact, in many instances, these independent examiners end up serving as witnesses for the insurance company when they try to reduce or eliminate an injured worker’s benefits. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure that you prepare yourself for this examination and carefully think through the answers that you provide to their questions.
How can you prepare for your independent medical examination?
Even though the prospect of this examination can be stressful, there are things you can do to ready yourself. Let’s look at some of them here:
- Bring someone to support you: You can alleviate your stress to a certain degree by bringing a family member or friend with you to the examination. This individual can also help you take notes about the examination, including what was asked and how you answered. This information can be crucial if you end up disputing the results of your independent medical examination.
- Be honest and realistic about your pain: Don’t exaggerate your pain when describing it to the medical professional. They might catch on, which will then lead them to believe that you’re not as injured as you claim. Also, if the doctor bumps your injury or runs a test on you that doesn’t cause pain, make sure to acknowledge that fact while also clarifying that you do feel pain, just not at that moment.
- Be prepared to address previous injuries: The independent medical examiner might think that your symptoms are consistent with an injury or illness that you suffered previously, well before your workplace accident. Therefore, as you prepare to head into your examination, make sure you can articulate any new symptoms that you’re experiencing and any increases in pain and physical limitations that you didn’t previously experience.
Don’t let your independent medical examination derail your workers’ compensation benefits
There are a lot of other steps that you can take to prepare for your independent medical examination. Therefore, to protect your workers’ compensation benefits as fully as possible, you need to have a clear understanding of the process and how to present yourself in the most honest and positive light possible.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to continue to research this matter and discuss it with those who are important to you. Hopefully then you can keep your benefits and maintain the financial stability that you need to focus on your recovery.